The new Frederique Constant Slimline Moonphase Manufacture Ladies (ref. FC-703VD3SD4) automatic wristwatch is one of the finest timekeepers introduced so far by the brand. It is also one of those (still few) models of the Swiss watchmaker that is powered not by a slightly redecorated version of a run-off-the-mill blank movement made either by ETA or Sellita, but by a new caliber that was developed and built by Frederique Constant on their own production facilities. That says something, right?
With this new watch the Swiss brand further develops the idea that first materialized in their 2011 Maxime Manufacture Automatic Lady Chocolate model: a watch that uses its slightly oversized case to make a cleaner, more legible timekeeper that at the same time looks elegant and timeless. It is extremely satisfying to see that in such a short time of less than three years the company made a huge progress in the design department.
Revealed just a week ago during Baselworld 2015 industry event, the new device offers a layout that is not only much more pleasant to look at, but is actually a lot readable than the previous model: something that you rarely encounter when it comes to timekeepers designed for women.
With this model, Frederique Constant chooses the same path as, say, Girard Perregaux: they get rid of stamped faux “guilloche” pattern in favor of a plain-looking silver dial that doesn’t divert our attention from the model’s main points of attraction: a moonphase display, which is, as usual, combined with a circular calendar, and eight finely cut diamonds that serve as hour markers (they are accompanied by rose gold-plated, hand-applied stick shaped indices that well match the leaf-shaped hour and minute hands).
Featuring classic convex shape, the dial looks like it was sand-blasted by the finest particles acquiring that gorgeous silky-matte texture that is not just pleasant for an eye, but also serves as a very good background for the hour and minute hands.
The whole impression of a delicate timepiece is enhanced by a very thin bezel. Set with 60 diamonds, the bezel is not just a part that holds the sapphire crystal in its place, but is also a beautiful frame for the dial. I may sound suspiciously mellow here, but this beautiful device really impressed me. Frankly, I didn’t expect such a refined piece of luxury from this relatively young brand.
As for the case, at almost 39 millimeters in diameter it may look unnaturally large on a lady’s wrist unless you are a taller person. You need to have relatively long hands for the timepiece to look good there. But that’s subjective, alright.
Its slim profile makes the device quite wearable: the FC-703VD3SD4 doesn’t feel massive on a hand, although, for reasons that you probably understand, author of this short review didn’t have a chance to prove it in person.
Another thing that may turn a number of customers off is the fact that the case is not crafted from solid gold. According to the Swiss brand, it is made of rose gold-plated stainless steel. Also the choice of materials makes the timekeeper about ten times cheaper than a similar model made from real gold, it also makes the watch more vulnerable to dings and scratches: something that can be successfully buffed out by a skilled hand, will probably ruin the watch with thin gold plating. Luckily, modern gold plating techniques employed by serious brands make the finish a lot more sustainable than those of the past.
Like many other watchmakers that previously used ETA blank calibers in their timepieces, Frederique Constant invests lots of funds into designing their own movements. This new watch, for example, is powered by their new Caliber FC-703 self-winding mechanism.
Said to be specifically developed to power their women’s watches, the mechanism is compact and slim. Also, judging by the pictures disseminated by the brand, it looks like this a natural-born moonphase movement: it doesn’t look like the indicator is attached to the base plate with an add-on module, although it is hard to be sure.
As their recent batch of calibers, the mechanism is very finely decorated and features their signature open-worked oscillating weight that, too, seems to be gold-plated. If not an extensive use of perlage on the base plate, I would even call it one of the finest mechanisms in this price range.
Although I don’t usually approve watches powered by “manufacture” calibers made by smaller brands (they are sometimes difficult to service and repair if you don’t happen to live in a big city), this one actually seems to be worth the risk of getting one.
UPDATE: According to the Swiss brand, the new collection will go on sale in May 2015 with prices starting at €995 in Europe and $1216 in the the United States.
Photos: Frederique Constant
WWR preliminary verdict
Build quality: 5/5
Value for money: 4/5
Frederique Constant Slimline Moonphase Manufacture Ladies (ref. FC-703VD3SD4) watch specification
Price: €995 — €1295 / $1216 — $1573
Movement: Automatic, Caliber FC-703, in-house, Swiss Made
Number of jewels: 26
Movement frequency: 28,800 vph
Power reserve: 42 hours
Movement decoration: Open-worked oscillating weight, circular “Cotes de Geneve” pattern, perlage, blued screws
Functions: Hours, minutes, date, moonphase
Case material: Stainless steel, rose gold-plated
Bezel material: Matches case, set with 60 diamonds
Crown material: Matches case
Case shape: Round
Bezel shape: Round
Case size: 38.80 mm
Case height: No data
Lug width: No data
Dial: Silver, convex
Hour markers: 8 diamonds, 4 applied rose gold-plated sticks
Hands: Rose gold-plated, polished
Water resistance: 30 meters
Strap: Glossy black or light brown alligator strap
Crystal: Sapphire, convex
Case back: Transparent